Castles

SABUGAL CASTLE
castelos1sabugal
Photo by João Cosme

Next to a big turn of the Côa, the outstanding castle of Sabugal watches the land and the crossing of the river. Its building was ordered by the king Alfonso IX of Leon during the 13th century, to defend the border of Ribacôa from the portuguese attacks.

After the signing of the Alcañices Treaty, in 1297, which assigned Ribacôa and the town of Sabugal to the Portuguese kingdom, the king Dinis of Portugal granted a royal charter to the town and ordered the improvement of its defensive structure, including of its Donjon. The latter, with its pentagonal floor and a height of 28 meters, is considered one of the most beautiful in Portugal.

The Castle of Cinco Quinas ("Five Escutcheons"), as it is known, was built with granite and schist and has a double perimeter of walls. The grandiosity of this castle allowed it to be recognized in 1910 as National Monument, which open the door to some restoration works.

VILAR MAIOR CASTLE
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Photo from the website of the Municipality of Sabugal

The Castle of Vilar Maior is settled in a dominant position over the valley of the Cesarão River and over the village standing at its feet. The Castle reveals elements of romanesque and gothic architecture styles. It plan is of an irregular oval shape.

The strategic position of Vilar Maior in the context of the border between Portugal and León soon determined that a castle would be built here. References to it are found in documents from the second half of the 11th century.

Adapted from the website Património Cultural, da Direção-Geral do Património Cultural.



CASTELO MENDO
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Photo by João Cosme

The ancient village of Castelo Mendo was settled on a hilltop facing the Côa river and the brook of Cadelos, standing at an height of 762 meters above the sea level. It belongs to the Municipality of Almeida and it is part of the Historical Villages of Portugal Network.

The town is characterized by the juxtaposition of two walled areas, with different ages and contexts of development. The first area was built in the first half of the 13th century and includes the castle and the Santa Maria Church. The second one was formed by an extension of the settling beyond the walls, only later to be delimited again, during 14th century. Although most of the known buildings are dated from the Medieval Ages, there are traces of settlements from the Bronze Age. It is believed that an intervention was conducted during the 12th century: the king Sancho I of Portugal would have found the destroyed town and would have ordered the reconstruction of its castle. In 1229, the same king granted a royal charter to the town.

Adapted from the text: Castelo Mendo: a partir de um espaço urbano medieval, Margarida Tavares da Conceição, in Beira Interior - História e Património, Guarda, 2000.


CASTELO BOM

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Photo by João Cosme

The area where this castle is located, in a dominant position over the Côa River, is inhabited from the time of proto-history. During the 12th and 13th centuries, it was part of land being disputed between the kingdoms of Portugal and León. At that time, Castelo Bom was an advanced defensive structure from the Leonese side and was eventually configured as a medieval castle. In 1282, Denis of Portugal conquered the settlement and ordered the immediate structural reinforcement of its defensive system.

The castle has an irregular plan, adapted to the land features. Its entrance is made of a broken-arch door, in the past protected by a Donjon which does not exist anymore.

In the last centuries, the castle suffered a steady decline almost to the point of ruin. In 1834, the municipality of Castelo Bom was made extinct. This lead to the dismantling of its own wall, since people used its stone for their own constructions. In the 20th century, some restoration works were conducted, but it was only in 1999 that a systematic improvement of the village was started, in a partnership between the municipal office and the private owners.

Adapted from the website Património Cultural, da Direção-Geral do Património Cultural.


PINHEL CASTLE
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Photo by João Romba

Although there are traces of human occupations dating back to the Chalcolithic period, the area of Pinhel only gained historical relevance during the Middle Ages. By that time, the Côa river turned into a stage for border disputes, which lead to the development of a system of fortified structures, including the castles of Trancoso, Marialva, Pinhel and Castelo Mendo.

The fortress of Pinhel was built during the reign of Afonso I of Portugal, in the 12th century, to stop the attacks from the Leonese population. In 1209, Sancho I of Portugal granted a royal charter to the town and promoted the increasing of its population and the growing of its economy.

A new wall was built during the reign of king Dinis, presenting six doors: Vila, Santiago, São João, Marrocos, Alvacar and Marialva. In its citadel, two towers were built, and can still be found today among the most prominent elements of the townscape. The north tower has the name of Manuelina, due to the changes it suffered during the reign of the king Manuel. It has a Manueline window facing south and two anthropomorphic gargoyles looking to Spain as a provocation.

Adapted from the website www.cm-pinhel.pt.


ALMEIDA FORTRESS

almeidafort
Phot by João Cosme


On the fringe of the Riba-Côa region, a magnificent star-shaped fortress watches the territory. The town of Almeida unveils signs of human presence since the Paleolithic period. Castro sites from the Bronze and Iron Ages were identified, as well as remains of Roman presence.

From the 14th century on, after the signature of the Alcañices Treaty, Almeida gained a strategic importance in the border control between Portugal and the Kingdoms of Castela and León. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a star-shaped bulwark-fortress was erected, turning Almeida into a notable security bastion in the course of many territorial disputes, including the Restoration War and the French Invasions.



CASTELO RODRIGO
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Photo by Erik Menkveld

The construction of this castle was promoted by Alfonso IX of León as part of the Côa defensive line. From its Romanesque wall, several important elements remain, of great interest to understand the evolution of the military architecture of the region. The castle was probably built or in the process of being finished in 1209, when the Leonese king granted a royal charter to the town.
In 1296, Denis of Portugal conquered the settlement and followed his Leonese counterpart in conceding it a royal charter.

In 1594, when Portugal was under the realm of Spain, Philip II of Spain (I of Portugal) improved the status of the town to County and offered its command to Cristóvão de Moura. The later built his palace inside Castelo Rodrigo and conducted some works in the fortress.

After 1640, with the restoration of Portuguese independence, the palace was destroyed by the local population in revolt against the spanish dominion, staying in a state of ruin until today. The Castle was partially restored in the 1940s, but only very recently it suffered a global intervention plan.


Adapted from the website Património Cultural, da Direção-Geral do Património Cultural.


CASTELO MELHOR
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Photo by João Cosme

It is one of the most significant examples of a secondary medieval fortress, built in one of the most peripheral parts of the Iberian kingdoms. The original construction is Leonese and goes back to early 13th century, a time when the whole area of Riba-Côa was receiving new defensive projects due to the disputes between the kingdoms of Portugal and León. In the context of this, Alfonso VII of León ordered the fortress of Castelo Melhor to be built, offering a royal charter to the settlement as an attempt to reinforce it in terms of population and military capacity.

With the Alcañices Treaty of 1297, Castelo Melhor changed hands to the Portuguese Crown. Denis of Portugal orderer some building improvements and a new administration to the village, with the goal of giving more prominence to the place in the context of the border disputes. Nevertheless, Castelo Melhor kept having a secondary and peripheral role in the Riba-Côa strip.

Since it escaped the restoration works from the first part of 20th century, Castelo Melhor ends up being one of the few castles not affected by the restoration doctrine, in this way being among the ones that can offer us more insights about the Low Middle Ages, once proper archeological excavations are conducted.

Adapted from the website Património Cultural, da Direção-Geral do Património Cultural.




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